Conference A Huge ‘Grand Jeté’ Forward For Student Dancers

By Quinlan Mitchell ’14

From March 12 to 16, students from the University of Rochester Program of Dance and Movement really got things moving. Along with program director Missy Pfohl-Smith and four faculty members, 14 UR undergrads participated in the Northeast regional conference of the American College Dance Festival Association (ACDFA) held this year at The College at Brockport.

The UR dance program has taken students to the conference three years in a row, largely due to the continued support of the Office of the Dean of the College, Dean Richard Feldman. Through generous sponsorship, Dean Feldman has allowed students of dance to take a huge ‘grand jeté’ forward as dancers and as people.

“Attending ACDFA was a pivotal experience in my college career, I’m so grateful to have connected with dancers whom I could have only met through ACDFA,” saysDan Hoffman ’15.

In return for the opportunity to pursue their art, dance students are showing their appreciation in a report to be presented to Dean Feldman, commenting on their experiences at ACDFA. Lauren Laibach, a senior at the U of R, has attended three ACDFA conferences.  Laibach says, “It’s so important for students from the UR program of Dance and Movement to broaden their horizons in terms of different approaches to dance and performance, and that’s exactly what ACDFA offers us.” Laibach also likes that ACDFA allows to her to watch a number of unique dance performances, something she loves to do.

Taking place on an annual basis, ACDFA regional conferences are part of a national initiative to promote dance as a performing art and nurture choreographic expression in college students. Dancers from all over attend conferences to engage in “three days of performances, workshops, panels, and master classes taught by instructors from around the region and country,” according to the ACDFA website.

Falling this year on spring break, the conference was not a chance for students to kick back and relax. Each day they participated in four master classes, running all day from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. with a lunch break in the middle. After classes students also had the option of attending the formal, adjudicated concert for undergraduate pieces, often calling it a night around 10 pm.

This year the Program of Dance and Movement presented three student pieces at the conference, two for adjudication and one at the informal student performance. Dan Hoffman ’15 choreographed, “Meetings Along the Edge,” Jessie Hogestyn ’14 choreographed “Sounds of Silence,” and students enrolled in Dance Ensemble presented their piece, “Quantum Truths.”  Hogestyn’s piece also was featured on campus, at the Louvre Performance Ensemble’s “Bravado,” on April 5.

On campus, more student works from the Program of Dance and Movement also were featured at the student choreography concert, “Architectures,” as well as the outdoor concert “National Water Dances,” both held on April 12.

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Dance Conference Gets Students Moving

Univ. Communications – The University of Rochester’s Program of Dance and Movement has for years been a small but vibrant community. Perhaps many of you are unfamiliar with the academics of the dance program but the presence of dance as an integral part of campus life cannot be denied.  There are nine extracurricular dance ensembles and regular performances by invited groups. Within the program, however, students find even more opportunities to explore new styles and connect with dancers from other universities.

The weekend before Spring Break, 10 dance students, along with program director Missy Pfohl Smith and dance instructor Courtney World, traveled to Penn State University for the annual American College Dance Festival Association’s Northeast regional conference.  The enthusiastic students kept a blog chronicling their experiences of conference, which consisted of workshops on different dance techniques and principles of motion. There were also performances by dance ensembles from various colleges, including Rochester.

“Since we all come from very different backgrounds in regard to styles of dance and amount of experience, the conference gave us a chance to come together and grow as dancers individually and as a group,” said Emily Hart ’12, a chemistry major and psychology minor. “Keeping the blog was a way to remember the little moments we loved and to stay connected with everyone on the trip and the members of our groups back in Rochester.”

Dance workshops ranged from more traditional jazz and tap instruction to contemporary styles such as house and hip-hop. The students were free to choose which classes to attend and they enthusiastically recounted their social and educational experiences through blog posts.  The instructors also had an opportunity to partake in the workshops as students.   The weekend was “a whirlwind of information, inspiration and connection,” blogged Smith.

The Rochester students gave two performances, one informal called Alien Nation and a formal performance titled Time/Save/Loss/Return. Afterward, Smith wrote: “I just want to share how proud I am of Alaina, Nichole, Lauren, Sydney and Robert, who performed with conviction, honesty and intention today. The fullness of their movement and their connection to one another was very moving and many colleagues; both those I know and those I met this weekend sought me out to congratulate me on what a meaningful and impressive commitment they showed in the work.”

Since their return the student participants have been eager to implement the new techniques they learned into their personal dance and performances with groups like Indulgence, Louvre Performance Ensemble, and Ballet Performance Group. “I’m incredibly thankful that the administration at UR is supporting the dance community on campus. There are a lot of students with plenty of passion for dance,” said Hart, who is a member of both Louvre and BPG. “Dance has been the biggest factor in making my undergraduate experience as fulfilling as it has been,”

“The weekend literally felt like one of those ‘once in a lifetime’ moments for me. I never had the chance to experience so much dancing and actually [be] able to watch live performances,” blogged Octavia Rhim ’15, a member of Sihir Bellydancing Ensemble and Indulgence, at the end of the weekend. “I think that any college student passionate about dance or even just interested, should have the opportunity to go to ACDFA.”

Article written by Maya Dukmasova, a Take 5 Scholar at the University of Rochester and an intern at University Communications. She majored in philosophy and religion and focused her Take 5 year on researching the way American media covers current events in the Muslim world. An aspiring journalist, Dukmasova has freelanced for Rochester Magazine, the Phoenix New Times, and the Daily News Egypt in Cairo. She also maintains two blogs, one devoted to culture and society in Russia (www.out-of-russia.com) and the other to photography (www.myorientalism.com).

In The First Photo: From left to right are students Sierrah Grigsby ’13, Sydney Robinson ’14, Robert Chen ’11, Nicole Zizzi ’14, Octavia Rhim’15, and Emily Hart’12. Photos courtesy of the student participants.